The President and the Pope

Marty Lederman marty.lederman at comcast.net
Mon Jun 14 12:10:45 PDT 2004


In the category of being hoist by one's own petard:  A friendly reader notes that I, too, misspelled "berserk."   J   My sincerest apology. 
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Marty Lederman 
  To: Law & Religion issues for Law Academics 
  Sent: Monday, June 14, 2004 12:52 PM
  Subject: Re: The President and the Pope


  I don't wish to become entangled in this increasingly ad hominem debate; and I suppose I regret starting the thread, seeing as how the question appears to have been willfully misconstrued and turned to other ends.  But for what it's worth, I think it should be quite obvious from my prior posts and elsewhere that my "antennae" go neither berzerk nor "bezerk" whenever public officials "act[] on [their] religious positions in the political square."  This case (as described in press reports, anyway -- I make no claim about their accuracy) obviously involves something quite beyond a public official acting in accord with his religious beliefs, no matter what one thinks of the propriety or constitutionality of the President's conduct.

    ----- Original Message ----- 
    From: Amar D. Sarwal 
    To: Law & Religion issues for Law Academics 
    Sent: Monday, June 14, 2004 12:38 PM
    Subject: Re: The President and the Pope


    I have understood the distinction from the beginning of this thread.  I was just surprised that you "approved of" Kerry violating his own Church's norms by receiving communion.  Later in the thread, you made clear that you have no horse in that battle, but you mangled my position.  I will leave it at that.

    As for the general point, I repeat that the antennae on this thread go bezerk when this president acts on his religious positions in the political square.  I fear that many have no idea how much poorer we would be if our predecessors had not done the same (of course, recognizing that there have been grave mistakes as well).
      ----- Original Message ----- 
      From: RJLipkin at aol.com 
      To: religionlaw at lists.ucla.edu 
      Sent: Monday, June 14, 2004 12:27 PM
      Subject: Re: The President and the Pope


      In a message dated 6/14/2004 11:49:23 AM Eastern Standard Time, adsarwal at dcappeals.com writes:
        did not force you to discuss the denial of communion aspect of the story.
        You did that yourself when you said:

        "This does not mean that I would hesitate to vote against a president who
        asked the Pope to instruct American bishops to denounce action I approve
        of."

        The "action that I approve of" in the context of this story has to be Kerry
        taking communion in violation of Church norms.  
              I'm afraid the above fails to observe an elementary distinction between a constitutional issue and a political or policy issue.  I might believe that nothing in the Constitution prohibits a President from asking the Pope to urge his Bishops to act in a certain manner while at the same time believing that for political reasons it is a bad idea.  Thus, I might defend a President's constitutional prerogative to consult with the Pope, but simultaneously embrace the proposition that guys I want to be president not engage in such conduct. Similarly, it might be constitutionally permissible for a President to invade Iraq, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't vote against a President who does so if my conception of what's right should counsel me to do so. The ideas of the right and the good are not exhausted by what is constitutionally permissible.

              While I always welcome "aid[s] [to my] understanding," let me reiterate: what is religiously proper concerning who should and who should not take communion is entirely irrelevant to the question of whether the President's conduct in consulting the Pope is constitutionally permissible.  I do not see that the distinction between the religious question and the constitutional question is in any way novel, but it is important to adhere to it nonetheless.   

      Bobby


      Robert Justin Lipkin
      Widener University School of Law
      Delaware


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